Nutcracker and the Four Realms: A Colorful, Eye-Catching Fantasy with Adventure and an Unexpected Twist

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Disney’s Nutcracker and the Four Realms is packed full of a lot of things I really love.

Sometimes, I see a trailer for a movie and am excited by it, mostly from the aesthetics. I’m a fan of period movies sometimes called “costume dramas.” Nutcracker and the Four Realms has some elements of a costume drama to it and is just a colorful, visually-stimulating fantasy.

I love stories from the Victorian period as well as the Victorian aesthetic and am a fan of the Nutcracker story, ballet and music. I read the original Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann a few Christmases ago. Sometimes, I think I’m a bit of a Russophile, and there are some Russian style influences in the movie as well. Nutcracker and the Four Realms also features a lot of Victorian-period mechanical inventions and clockwork, another fascination of mine. For this reason, the movie had a bit of a steampunk feel which might appeal to fans of that genre.

I guess my oldest brother recognized it as a “Susan movie,” and he suggested we see it together. I was surprised as it does not seem like a movie with stereotypical macho appeal. After all, it has a young female lead and is partly inspired by a ballet. The new Disney movie might have more appeal to a male audience than the ballet would. It has a bit more adventure and more intense scenes than the ballet and can even be mildly creepy in places. There are some scenes that might disturb someone with a fear of mice … or a fear of clowns. I don’t consider myself a musophobe — the main Mouse Prince has a cute little face — but there was one scene where I did pinch my brother’s sleeve … and he laughed.

The story of Nutcracker and the Four Realms is related to but quite different from the book and ballet, which may disturb some purists. I enjoyed it. I’d compare it to Oz fans being able to enjoy Wicked based on the book by Gregory Maguire. The Disney movie is not a ballet, but there are some ballet scenes in it as well as some Tchaikovsky music from the ballet in the soundtrack.

In this version, Clara Stahlbaum, played by Mackenzie Foy, is a bit of a science whiz and inventor. The movie opens with an owl swooping down over snowy London and a bird’s eye view of these scenes as you touch on some ice among ice skaters and hover over London streets. I saw this in 3D and really felt like I was in motion as my stomach lurched a few times. The significance of the owl relates to the ballet where the opening scene describes a grandmother clock topped with an owl. The owl is next seen with Clara’s toymaker godfather, played by Morgan Freeman.

Clara is first shown in the attic of her home with her brother Fritz where she has set up an elaborate Victorian version of a Rube Goldberg mouse trap, using various toys. This introduces you to her interest in invention and is also a foreshadowing of her encounter with the Mouse Prince.

Her Christmas gift is not a nutcracker. It is an elaborate gold egg reminiscent of Faberge eggs from that period. The gift is from her recently departed mother. It comes with a note from her mother, “Everything you need is inside,” but no key to open the egg. Clara shows her cleverness in that she knows what sort of lock the egg has although she is unable to pick it open. Later, at the Drosseldorfs’ party, Clara helps her godfather by reversing the rotation on his mechanical toy of spinning swans. Godfather Drosseldorf also gives her the key to her egg.

She and all the guests at the party receive Christmas gifts in a unique way. She finds her name tag on a string strung through the house and follows it through mysterious hallways all the way to the wintry outside where she discovers she’s in the magical place of the Four Realms.

The four realms are the Land of Sweets, Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Amusements. The Land of Sweets is from the ballet. It is ruled by Sugar Plum, played by Keira Knightley. The other lands are not mentioned in the ballet, although the ballet has a Waltz of the Flowers and a Waltz of the Snowflakes. The movie’s story also has a Christmas Tree Forest.

Shortly after her arrival in the Realms, Clara loses her precious key to the Mouse Prince who snatches it and runs away. She meets the nutcracker, Phillip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight soon afterwards and is astonished when he calls her Princess Clara and refers to her late mother as Queen Marie.

In the YouTube comments for the trailer, I noticed quite a discussion about how some people are disappointed that the godfather and the nutcracker were both played by black actors. Some were calling it “cultural appropriation” since the story is a European one. I can see finding it strange if a black actor was in the role of Andrew Jackson in a historical movie. That would seem historically inaccurate. This is a fantasy, and the nutcracker is a toy come to life. I don’t have a problem with it, and both actors were excellent in their roles.

The Land of Amusements is the home of the Mouse Prince, Mouse King and other mice. It is also the home of Mother Ginger played by Helen Mirren. The Land of Amusements has the feel of an abandoned, creepy carnival and is at war with the other three realms. The Nutcracker ballet features a Mother Ginger with a tent-like hoop skirt out of which climb little Pulcinellas, European style clowns. The movie’s Mother Ginger and her clowns are housed inside a huge mechanical Mother Ginger with a circus tent skirt. The clowns, with their strange, distorted faces, seem a little bit menacing.

I won’t give too many more spoilers, but there is battle and a very interesting plot twist that those previously familiar with the Nutcracker story would not anticipate.

 

3 Sets of Identical Twin Musicians on YouTube

EverythingEntertainment

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Photo from https://harptwins.com

Double your pleasure and double your fun with these sets of identical twin musicians.

Derek & Brandon Fiechter

Derek and Brandon Fiechter may not be as visible on their YouTube channel as the other two pairs named later in this article, only because they do not film themselves. Their videos feature instrumentals of their own composition and still artwork … often fantasy artwork.

The brothers describe themselves as fantasy and world composers. The twins both started composing around the age of fifteen.

They are very prolific and have many instrumental pieces on fantasy themes such as elves, fairies, mermaids, pirates, space, steampunk or on world music themes like Arabian, Caribbean, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian and more. The music takes you away to a different world.

Their music would be great as soundtrack music for videos and movies, video games, podcasts or to be used in live dramas. Under their “About” section, they say that their music can be used in non-commercial videos (whether monetized or not) as long as they are credited.

Many of their fans comment that they enjoy listening to their videos while studying or writing. Their pieces are often relaxing and help to create a soothing atmosphere.

Here is some beautiful Celtic mermaid music from Derek Fiechter.

Some of their pieces have dark and spooky themes, such as this Creepy Doll music. Personally, I find it more relaxing than creepy.

You can find their music at BandcampGoogle Play , iTunes and Spotify.

The Harp Twins (Camille and Kennerly Kitt)

The Harp Twins have a lot of fun as identical twins. Like the Fiechter brothers, some of their music also has fantasy themes. They often play popular movie and game theme music and dress in identical appropriate costumes in their videos. Their music covers many genres such as rock and pop, even heavy metal music, arranged by themselves for harp. These talented girls create all of their own harp arrangements and produce and create the concepts for their outstanding videos.

In case musical and video production talent was not quite enough, the girls are both third degree Black Belts in tae kwon do, are “distinguished experts” in rifle marksmanship and have had training in horseback riding. They are also members of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, dabbling in theater and film acting. This ability comes across in their video performances.

Their golden dresses and armbands look appropriate for ancient Rome as they play “Now We Are Free,” a theme from the Gladiators movie.

I love the beauty and color in this ’80s meets Victorian period video, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The video features the 1890 Eden Palais Salon Carousel at the Sanfilippo Estate.

The girls have several albums including Harp Attack, Harp Attack 2, Harp Fantasy and Harp Fantasy 2. You can buy their music here.

The Mona Lisa Twins (Mona and Lisa Wagner)

These 24-year-old twins play and sing many tributes to artists of the ’60s such as the Beatles, Everly Brothers, Mamas and Papas, Peter and Gordon and other harmonic groups of that decade. They are also creating and recording original songs that are reminiscent of the styles from this period.

The girls are from Austria where the music tradition is classical and folk, but the twins themselves were highly influenced by British and American music of the 60s. Their father is a songwriter and musician with experience running a recording studio. He and their stepmother helped build up their music business.

My first video discovery was this version of “Bus Stop” by the Hollies. It’s a sweet and innocent love song about romance that develops at a shared umbrella at a bus stop. I enjoy their voices and harmonies, and I also just love their humorous and literal enactment of some of the lyrics.

Here is one of their original songs, “I Don’t Know Birds That Well.” This repeated line is followed by, “But they always seem to sing about love.”

On their album Orange, they collaborate with John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful. You can now pre-order Volumes 2 & 3 of Mona Lisa Twins Sing Beatles & More. You can find their music here. 

Enjoy these musical discoveries from creative partnerships of identical twins.